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What is a Muse?

By Garry Crystal
Updated Mar 06, 2024
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Many artists, writers, poets and musicians have said that their creative work has been inspired by an individual whom they refer to as their muse. A muse is someone who has such an influence on another that he or she becomes the focus and inspiration for that person's creative work. The term has historically been used by men to describe the women that they have been in love with and made the subject of their work.

The word muse originates from Greek mythology. The Greek gods Zeus and Mnemosyne had nine daughters called the Muses. The nine daughters were of one being in heart, spirit and thought. If the muses loved a man, then the man's worries instantly disappeared. The man who was loved by the muses was considered to be more sacred than a holy man.

Throughout the history of the arts, men and women have been inspired by their own muses. Think of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, two people who were inspired by each other and became the subject of much of the other's work. One world famous artist who incorporated his muses into his work was the painter Pablo Picasso. Throughout his life, each of the women he met and loved became his subject.

Picasso had relationships with many women, many of which ended in heart-breaking circumstances for the women. Picasso's work can be seen progressing with each woman he had a relationship with. From the first flush of romance to the deterioration of the relationship, all of the stages can be seen in his art. Picasso's women were his inspiration, and he is sometimes judged harshly for discarding the women in his life when the inspiration dissipated and his work began to suffer. Picasso would move onto a new woman, and his inspiration and art would be invigorated.

The muse is not always a human being. As the idea of the muse originated in a spiritual world, so too do many musicians see their muse as coming from a different dimension. Musician Jim Morrison of the rock band The Doors claimed to call on the spirit world to inspire his music. Many people see the muse as a dark supernatural force that possesses the artist and helps create his or her work. This is why some people call some forms of music, mistakenly, the devil's work.

Whether the muse is spiritual or a person of flesh and blood, it is true that the world of the arts is indebted to its muses. Without these inspirational people who have loved and encouraged the artist, a wealth of paintings and music would be missing from the world.

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Discussion Comments

By anon996718 — On Oct 07, 2016

I have had a number of muses through the years and during those times, I am a prolific poet. However, at some point, the inspiration vanishes and I feel forlorn and wonder if I will ever write again, until another muse moves into my mind and then I am flying on clouds again with lofty aspirations and wonderful ideas to put on paper.

By anon960872 — On Jul 13, 2014

@anon117676: I think you are probably both muses - but while two "+" charges together might amplify, they must repel. There must be a vessel for the muse's energy to flow into. We poor artists are longing to find you once again.

By anon960871 — On Jul 13, 2014

@anon52557: I never thought about it that way. As an artist (one who is so long removed from his muse it is really sad) I never really considered that that energy that we derive from you might not be seen as a blessing on both sides.

It probably doesn't help, but know that you are revered above everything by artists, even when we eventually break your heart!

By anon944462 — On Apr 07, 2014

I had a muse once. We spent the next twenty years together and like a fool, I took her for granted, and let her get away. With her went almost all of my reason, and inspiration. Never take a muse for granted. They cannot be replaced.

By anon345173 — On Aug 16, 2013

My muse won't speak to me, but oh how I love him, in every possible way. I am sorry Mr. for the honesty and directness, but I love you and always will.

By anon316878 — On Jan 30, 2013

I think like a machine. I understand processes and energy. I'm determination, I'm drive, I'm driven, and I motivate. But I'm broken, I'm torn and angry. I know I'm a muse. I know I inspire. I know I light the fire. I just don't know what to do.

By anon311677 — On Jan 03, 2013

I have a muse. He's a dear acquaintance and knows absolutely nothing about it. Or, at least, that is my hope. From the moment I laid eyes on him, the inspiration began flowing. It's a little strange, but I learned long ago not to question everything. Some gifts you just need to accept.

By anon280025 — On Jul 16, 2012

@anon52557: You remind me of someone special whom I have had the sense to become aware of (and love). Maybe you are someone else, but what I would say to her (if I weren't so shy) might be applicable to yourself as well. You are our muse, as well as many other things. Many of the people now active from your efforts admire and love you; how can we not? If you want credit, that's easy. Your very memorable name will be remembered and credited. Thanks for being our inspiration.

By anon278341 — On Jul 06, 2012

Be grateful to the source of creativity - the fountain that is flowing constantly. Take a breath and let it come into your heart and release it with delight. I'm trying not to overthink; the truth is in my heart.

In other words, that joy and inspiration seems to flow when I am in resonance with "Love." Call it a muse, or whatever, but it is a heart connection. Seriously folks, as my nephew would say (he's 7), and seriously delicious!

By anon277879 — On Jul 02, 2012

I met a woman a while ago who has become my muse. The startling truth is when I'm around her, things happen, like my drawings have a life of their own and images for work appear to me as visions that it seems are being drawn by someone else and I'm only watching.

I think God wants me to be around her and help her and protect her. Complex puzzles reveal their solutions, I think better and my emotions are hotter and brighter. This coming from a bit of a mechanical non-emotional, non-spiritual guy. Sometimes it makes me cry when they are being created. I'm very stable and not on drugs of any kind. I don't know what to do.

I tried to win her and impress her and make her mine, but it had just the opposite effect, and perhaps now I've alienated her. Perhaps I should have just shut up and not revealed to her how special she was to me. Any advice on how I may win her back - at least as a friend, if not a lover?

By Artist88 — On Jun 21, 2012

I am an artist. A simple crush on a girl inspires my stories. It takes the responsibility away, the burden of creating something as we want it to happen naturally. Even if it is just fleeting moments with them, it still fuels the inspiration to create something, something which is a part of me, something that comes out from my deep sub conscious.

These actions help me to fight expectations of my work, to run faster than doubt can catch my mind, to feel free to be exact. It creates a unity in my mind which makes me feel complete. I feel human. The energy, the vibrations are incredible. Then, I don't know, but they seem to be able to flick a switch inside my head. Imagination flows at an incredibly fast rate.

A lot of these muses never actually know what they have done for me. It's the muse's energy and their admiration of my ambitious nature that gets me right in my heart. I try desperately not to fall in love with them, to keep it at that level.

By anon222869 — On Oct 17, 2011

I've been reading these posts, and what a lot of people always forget is that what we see, isn't all there is. If you blindly believe your eyes, you will never see the true beauty of this world. Everything in life is a kind of energy. Every event, things that happen, life, trees, birds, the whole world, everything is energy. Everything is connected, and that's why you influence the world around you with the color of your energy, be it light or dark, white or black, green or blue. If you could see, or feel this energy, and understand that what you give is what you get, you will know that life is much more, than what our eyes tell us it is.

Some things, some people, be they spiritual or mortal, are capable of turning other people's lights on, and making them shine. Some people seem to react overly happy or friendly, like they are not actively aware such a thing is happening, and they have no clue why they feel the way they do.

I'm a poet, and for what reason I do not know. I was touched one day, and my muse, spiritual in nature, is my inspiration and the way to my soul. This love goes deeper then any kind of love I ever felt, or ever will feel.

By anon220572 — On Oct 08, 2011

the best muses in the world are the ones that only the musicians and the muse know about.

By anon187883 — On Jun 19, 2011

Can a muse be Spirit or Light? People tend to muddy the water for me - too many layers there. (Maybe I relate to those words more because I'm visual artist -- an impressionist).

By anon158773 — On Mar 08, 2011

i was recently told i have a "mad vibe" about me and that i am a "negative muse" of sorts. this person further explained that if I'm in a good mood, then all is well. if I'm in a bad mood, then i expel that negative energy to all those around me. I've never heard of a "negative muse." Is this even possible?

By anon156165 — On Feb 25, 2011

Has anyone ever fallen in love with their muse- beyond inspiration and friendship- even sexual to a sexual level. Or, would this destroy all of the powerful energy?

By anon147572 — On Jan 29, 2011

I want to find out more about being a muse. I want to be a good muse and yet all I see is references to the band.

By anon136648 — On Dec 23, 2010

Muse, inspiration or meditation? a direct connection to the spiritual world? or a awareness to the connection that is a part of the universe itself? Are we all a part of "god" (you can replace god with word any you wish) or is "god" in everything? are we guided or do we guide? do animals have souls? if not are we also soul less? I give you these questions to muse upon or to amuse yourself with. --Dave W.

By anon129547 — On Nov 24, 2010

I need an answer on this because i think I'm going mad.

I have always loved a certain writer's work. I met him a month ago in person and asked him to sign my book.

There was an amazing energy between us.

He gave a talk to an audience and I felt he was tailor making it for me.

I wrote to him by e-mail but he didn't answer back. He's quite famous so he's probably busy.

Now when I read his weekly columns it's as if he has read my mind or my blog because things i write about keep popping up in his columns.

I think about his writing all the time and it makes me want to write better.

I believe he is keying into me on a spiritual level as much as I am to him.

Am I imagining all this or do you think it could be possible?

By anon117676 — On Oct 11, 2010

Wow! That was inspiring. A couple of years ago I met a man and the energy between us was so strong. When we first went out, it seemed the weather would change beautiful lightning showers and the sky's a beautiful color.

Anyway, every time we were together there was this strong energy and i felt so full of life. The thing is I have been told I am a strong healer. With my energy i guess my thought was he a muse and may it be possible that i am as well?

the other thing is that i think it was so strong that we could not stay around each other for long. I am glad i read about what a muse is. thank you.

By anon109557 — On Sep 08, 2010

recently after nine years or so i told my muse she was my muse. i told her who lovesick diaries, my film, was really about.

You know, revealing your muse is good in one instance, but wow -- not so good otherwise.

The muse can take it as negative, thinking too much on the terms of societal standards of a crush rather than motivation for oneself.

By anon109421 — On Sep 07, 2010

i kind of had a muse once. the problem was that she came in the form of my best friend's girl, and I had to stop talking to her completely.

By anon103204 — On Aug 11, 2010

I have been studying archetypes and trying to discover which archetypes I have. It has been quite a lengthy and soul searching process. I have learned a tremendous amount about myself.

People kept telling me that I change the energy of a room. They would say that the people would start talking and laughing more and being more playful. I would ask, what am I doing? I am just sitting here.

Now, I have realized that I have the muse archetype and that is all I need to do: sit there. I am a Life Coach and now I understand why it just comes naturally to me. I want to meet a man that is a muse also. It would almost be scary what all I could accomplish if I had a partner who was a muse, too.

anon52557: I think all you need is someone to acknowledge you. Keep doing what you are doing. Look inside yourself for the recognition. It is difficult to do, but it is possible to do. You lose your power when you seek the recognition for an outside source. They don't understand what your energy alone is doing. They can't see it. Don't be angry or feel rejected, just know that you are the change process.

Thank you for this web page!

By innovative — On Aug 02, 2010

I came in contact with a gentleman at a mutual gathering place about three years ago. After seeing him there a few times I started to feel this powerful energy from him. I did not understand what it was at first. He has since moved out of state but every time he returns I get the same powerful energy from him.

This energy makes me want to improve myself in every way. It makes me want to be a better person, a better writer, a better entrepreneur and I start to get happier about life. I thought it was infatuation, but it is much deeper than that because this has been going on for almost three years now.

After I leave his presence, for days at a time I continue to feel his energy, it feels so strong in my soul that it makes me want to burst into tears. I’ve been married and in love before but I have never had this feeling from anyone else.

Because of my shyness I only speak when he speaks, I never make eye contact and I never hold conversations with him, so I am not sure how he feels, but the energy is so unbelievably strong I would be surprised if he did not feel something too. Could he be my muse?

By anon90796 — On Jun 18, 2010

I have a male muse at the moment. He has inspired me to paint like never before by the beauty of his photography. We live in different countries and are both in relationships. We are in contact but this is just a friendship and would be hard to define other than divine friendship and I am very grateful for his inspiration. He is my muse. I am his too I think. Wow!

By anon74980 — On Apr 05, 2010

Thanks. That was so clear and helpful.

By anon52557 — On Nov 15, 2009

I once wrote that I wanted to be a catalyst for change in my community. Now, some many years later, I am starting to feel used. I have inspired many of the people around me to think differently, to look past the problem in order focus on a solution, and to change themselves first if they want the world around around them to change.

I do not want to be their muse, being their inspiration and yet excluded from participating in the change process. I am confused, and unhappy as merely a muse. I want more out of life. I want to create. I want to leave a legacy of good works that is credited to me. Yet, I still have the heart of a muse. What am I to do?

By anon52449 — On Nov 14, 2009

Wow - thanks for that - it gives me more of an idea of the magical energy I carry.

Someone, a male, who has been in contact with me for a few years from a far, has just used that word to describe me. I feel a good feeling from him, not like the usual man. he is respectful, inspired, enlightened by me just being me.

I have realized he is magic too. So it all make sense now. It's like living the energy of a mythical world within a heavier world and being free from the "burdens" - all in the mind of course ;) and all good. We all have the choice - we are all the Universe.

By anon51230 — On Nov 04, 2009

Here is a simple question. Does a muse necessarily have to be a person? Can it be a thing or a position? Perhaps an experience?

By anon49131 — On Oct 17, 2009

I am a female poet and recently met someone who has become my muse. I feel so charged and ridiculously motivated to write after I have been around him. I am worried that he may view this whole muse thing in a negative light, him being male and all. Hope he sees this article.

By anon48713 — On Oct 14, 2009

I'm glad I saw what this word meant. Someone close to me kept calling me their muse, and I didn't want to offend him by asking what that meant. Thank you so much.

By anon39960 — On Aug 05, 2009

apparently i will be meeting my muse today. that's what it says in my horoscope. i have been beautifying a local pathway in my neighborhood, sowing seeds, watching them grow and prosper, but then the County mowed them down.

i'm having a meeting with the County today to go over my plans of another wildflower sanctuary alongside the bronx river parkway in scarsdale/eastchester NY.

By anon37337 — On Jul 18, 2009

as an artist, i feel i need a muse as a reason to create. it helps to know how to find one and how to recognize my muse.

i feel i will be much more creative now that i can find my muse and be inspired by her.

By anon31058 — On Apr 29, 2009

this article has helped me to understand so much about myself. i am a poet and this is quite interesting in how i relate to men. thanks

By anon17372 — On Aug 28, 2008

I was reading the new Barbie book, "Barbie and the Diamond Castle", soon to be a movie to my five year old granddaughter and the word "muse" is used throughout the book. I wanted to make sure that I was giving her a correct definition of the word. Thank you for a direct explanation!

By anon4118 — On Oct 03, 2007

Thanks. Exactly what I was looking for. I knew what a muse was in Greek but not exactly the modern interpretation. I liked your examples.

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